Justice O Ottaba of the High Court in Banjul yesterday delivered a ruling on the bail controversy that arose after the prosecution amended the charges against Sira Wally Ndow-Njai, Gambia’s former Petroleum Minister and 8 other former government officials.
On 25th October 2016 the prosecution amended the charges in the case followed by the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) S H Barkun’s application for the court to revoke or revisit the bail, arguing that is a practice in this jurisdiction.
The defence lawyers representing the accused persons on bail; namely: Fafa Sanyang, Muntaga Momodou Sallah, Momodou Taal, Seedy Kanyi, Louise Moses Mendy and Cherno Marena, had opposed the DDP’s application, saying it was a mere opinion but was not supported by any law.
The trial judge said he had critically examined the bail conditions of the accused persons, which he said all of them had fulfilled and never breached the conditions. He added that the court has the powers to revoke bail but those powers are not in vacuum as there are conditions or circumstances to warrant that move by the court.
He said the amendment made on the charges does not affect the substance of the case and he therefore hold that there is no circumstantial change in the case as the only change is the difference in the amount involved, which was $8. 7 Million before and now amended to $7 Million.
He refused the prosecution’s application and went on to review the bail condition of Fafa Sanyang who was earlier granted bail in the sum of D250, 000 to $1. 3 Million with two Gambian sureties. He said Fafa is now charged on economic crime in which the amount is over $7 Million.
After the judge read the ruling, Lawyer Antouman Gaye, the lead defence counsel for Sira Wally Ndow-Njai, said they were served with an affidavit in opposition filed by the prosecution and the bail application they filed for their client (Madam Njai) and they wished to file an affidavit in reply.
The DPP however informed the court that his witness was in court and he was ready to proceed with his testimony.
The First Prosecution Witness (PW1) identified himself as Chief Inspector Bakary Darboe. He said he is a police officer attached to the Major Crime Unit of the Gambia Police Force and resides at Sinchu Alhagie Village.
PW1 told the court that he knows some of the accused persons; namely Sira Wally Ndow-Njai, Fafa Sanyang, Cherno Marena, Pa Momodou Taal, Louse Moses Mendy, and Muntaga Sallah, because he obtained their cautionary statements in relation to an investigation.
He explained that he first invited them, introduced himself to them and informed them that he was to obtain their statements. He said they all opted to write their statements by themselves after which they signed them.
The witness was handed with a bunch of documents by the DPP which he identified as the statements he obtained and the DPP applied to tender them in evidence as exhibits without lawyers for the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 6th, 7th, and 8th accused persons raising objections to the admissibility of the documents.
The trial judge admitted the statements in evidence as exhibits and adjourned the matter to Wednesday, 2nd November 2016 for continuation.
by Fatou Sowe